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October 08, 2005

Golden history

The Cathedral (Dom Church) in Poznan has been rebuilt several times in its history, the latest rebuild having been carried out in 1952 to rebuild the building all but destroyed by the Russian assault in 1944/45. Several parts of the original survived, perhaps the most spectacular part being the "Golden" Chapel, built in the 18th Century to house the tombs of the first Kings of Poland. The chapel is, for obvious reasons kept locked and is entered only on special occassions for commemorative Masses by the Cathedral clergy.

The altar and altarpiece of the Golden Chapel - the altarpiece is not a painting, it is in fact a mosaic composed of various rare and precious and semi-precious materials.

The walls and the spectacular domed roof are lined with gold - hence the name - and this is worked as both a foil and as inlaid and wrought elements. It is estimated that there is upwards of 18 kilograms (almost 40 pounds) of gold here. Alcoves to the North and South of the circular chapel house the tombs of Mischea I and Mischea II the first two Kings of Poland, four more are entombed beneath the floor.

The dome of the Golden Chapel. The picture does not do it any credit at all!

While this chapel is perhaps the most stunning feature, the cathedral holds a number of fascinating features for those interested in history and in ancient buildings. The undercrofts beneath the present structure have been opened up and can be seen as part of an archeological tour, which allows visitors to see the original foundations for the first cathedral and to examine the subsequent changes and enlargements. This tour also reveals the probably site of the baptism font (one of three possible sites) where King Michea I was baptised - and subsequently all of Poland became Christian by decree.

There must be some irony in the fact that the city of Poznan saw the first King's, the first Cathedral and became the first capital - and also witnessed the dismissal of the last Polish King, overthrown by a Swedish invader in the 18th Century, at which point Poland ceased to exist as a nation, except in it's language and in the hearts and minds of it's people.

So here you have the celebration of both the beginning and the end of the original Poland - and the pride of the new.

Posted by The Gray Monk at October 8, 2005 09:23 AM

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